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Datacolor Spyder3TV: Improving your TV picture quality

We always say that your TV should be properly set up. Now there's a device that helps you improve the picture quality, all from the comfort of your sofa

When we review a TV, we almost always end up saying, "you'll need to spend some time setting this up properly so the picture doesn't end up looking like a dog's dinner". The problem is, unless you spend a lot of time setting up TVs, you might not really know what to adjust and by how much.

Happily, a company called Datacolor has produced something called Spyder3TV with one goal in mind: get your TV set up perfectly by guiding you through the adjustment of colour, brightness, sharpness and temperature settings on your TV. It does this via a little device you hook into a computer using USB and stick with a suction cup to the front of your TV.

In the box, you get a driver CD for your computer -- Windows only -- plus the software to calibrate the TV and of course, the USB device, which attaches to your TV. Everything is really sturdy and the software installs with no problems at all.

The actual calibration is a very simple process and although it takes quite a while, we can see the advantages to doing it this way. The software is designed to make everything a matter of clicks, rather than expecting you to look at images on screen and adjust the picture for yourself. You adjust the picture settings when you're told and the software works out what it thinks will look best.

At £99, it's slightly too expensive, considering most people have two or three TVs in their house at the most and probably only one that they would actually bother to calibrate. We also had a slight problem with the software in that it crashed as we were getting to the end of the calibration. We don't think this is a big deal, but it meant we couldn't print our settings for future reference.

Overall, the Spyder3TV does the right thing, but it's more expensive than a calibration disc like Digital Video Essentials, which will basically do the same thing, but rely on you making a decision based on how you think the TV should look. It's possible that you'll save money on electricity after calibrating it, so you could possibly argue the device will pay for itself. It's going to take quite a while, though. -Ian Morris